Chadian Military Apprehends Column Of Rebels Near Libyan Border

On February 9th, 2019, the Chadian military released a statement indicating that they had captured more than 250 rebels, including some top leaders. This capture was part of an operation against a convoy of militants trying to cross into Chad from Libya. This operation has also included French assistance in the form of airstrikes.

The statement itself claimed the apprehending of  “250 terrorists, including four main leaders”. Further, more than 40 vehicles were allegedly destroyed and hundreds of weapons confiscated. The statement also purported that “several compromising documents were also seized. According to the statement, the operation will continue sweeping in Ennedi (the North-West region of Chad bordering Libya and Sudan). This region is close to the location of another armed column of rebel vehicles that was brought to a halt in early February. Intelligence sources that had been in contact with Reuters indicate that only 100 militants had been captured.

The tension in Chad is characterised by two major groups, those in support of President Idriss Déby and those in protest against his leadership. The rebellion is most recently manifesting itself in rebel group named Union of Resistance Forces (UFR). The UFR was created in 2009 as a conglomeration of 8 rebel groups. This was following the defeat of three insurgent groups being fought off by Déby’s forces at the gates of the presidential palace in N’Djamena in February 2008.

Chad is made up of more than 200 ethnic groups and has been suffering from political turmoil, coups and crisis since it gained independence from France in 1960. The current unrest began in 1990 when current president Déby seized control during a coup. Chad’s parliament also recently approved a new constitution that increased the president’s power and could see him hold on to power until as late as 2033.

Under Déby, who is a former head of Chadian armed forces, the nation has assumed a leading role in the Sahel regions anti-jihadist movement. The West African coalition against the Boko Haram insurgency includes Chad as well. Chad is also a part of the French backed G5 anti-terror alliance along with Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.

Operation Barkhane (the operation responsible for the capture of these rebels) heralds this event as a big victory in the struggle. French troops are deployed in assistance of this operation. Local media outlets are contributing to this narrative by speculating that the UFR chief of staff, Ousman Teguene, could be among those captured. This could perhaps be aimed at breaking the spirits of those aligned with the rebellion.

It seems that the UFR has taken a hit as a result of Operation Barkhane. One member of the group, Mahamat Doki Warou, stated that they had “suffered damage” following the French airstrikes. However, Warou also made the assertion that there were “three columns” of vehicles, indicating that this blow may not be as serious as it has been portrayed. Additionally, the convoy was able to cross over 600 kilometres of Chadian territory without having to deal with any significant roadblocks before suffering under fire from the several French and Chadian airstrikes.

The situation continues to develop and tensions in the area remain high.